The diva and the dude: a year of Berlin’s beloved pandas

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The diva and the dude: a year of Berlin’s beloved pandas
Male panda Jiao Qing tucks into fresh bamboo at Berlin zoo. Photo: DPA

It’s been one year since two pandas arrived in Berlin on 24th June 2017, and they’ve got a very particular breakfast routine in Berlin’s Zoologischer Garten.


The two pandas were flown in from China on a cargo plane, and have been tucking into lots of bamboo ever since. 

The male panda - Jiao Qing - has apparently taken to eating his bamboo breakfast outside in the sun, preferably in his bathing pool with the sprinklers on. 

Jiao Qing is said to be a comfortable, modest and laid-back panda who likes to spend his time eating and sleeping; that’s very typical for a seven-year-old male bear who weighs in at 113 kilos. 

The female panda - Meng Meng - prefers to eat her breakfast in her loft bed, favouring the bamboo from her enclosure as opposed to that which is given to her. “Luckily the bamboo grows back quickly enough”, zoo manager Norbert Zahmel explains. 

Female panda Meng Meng shows off in her enclosure at Berlin zoo. Photo: DPA

Meng Meng is a curious creature who glides around her jungle gym in a daring way.

“She’s active, demanding and has a mind of her own!”, Zahmel explains. Meng Meng is apparently a little diva and insists on new toys - preferably homemade ones - from her keepers.

“She’s got a strong idea of what the keepers have to do and when”, zoo spokeswoman Philine Hachmeister says. “It’s kind of like a person going through puberty”. 

Both pandas are on loan from China and cost the zoo around a million US-dollars per year. According to Chinese officials, this money is reinvested into breeding pandas back in their homeland. 

The Berlin zoo sends regular updates back to panda experts in China, including how much bamboo the bears are eating and which types tickle their fancy. 

These pandas don’t like every type of bamboo; Jiao Qing and Meng Meng receive around 30 to 45 kilos of bamboo per day, but they don’t always finish their sticks. This is the norm - pandas are known for being gourmet bears. 

Recently, the zoo has also been allowed to use bamboo plantations in the Botanical Gardens as emergency reserves, just in case deliveries from other garden-centres in Europe dry up.

Looking to the future, of course Berlin is hoping for some little panda babies, however they decided that at 4 years old, the playful Meng Meng was a little too young to mate this year. 

Mating pandas is a tricky balancing act, mainly because female pandas are only fertile for a few days a year. 

Preparations have already been made in Berlin though. 

In what is the most luxurious accommodation at the Berlin zoo, the pandas’ enclosure cost around 10 million euros and includes a Panda Love Tunnel. Whether or not it’ll be in use by next spring hasn’t been confirmed yet, as zoo director Andreas Knieriem says this will be decided with the help of colleagues from China.

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